Book Review Date: February 11th, 2019
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life, where weekends mostly consist of frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, a bumbling IT guy from her office, whose big heart will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. Smart, warm, and uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of the ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.
Singular, acerbic, and deeply vulnerable, Gail Honeyman’s protagonist Eleanor Oliphant is a character I wished to live with long after the last page was turned. I found myself simultaneously giggling and cringing in a way that felt completely inappropriate, as if laughing at the expense of friend, but also wishing deeply and sincerely that I could live life as she does—simply and without apology.
Eleanor is completely fine in the way that a caged animal might feel its small enclosure is nice or that a shattered mirror shows us beauty. Damaged, with a past yet to be uncovered, Eleanor is at her core a survivor. The mystery of Eleanor’s past is the driving force of the story, struck into motion by her infatuation with a man she’s never met and an incident with an old man whose life entangles her with the new IT guy from work, whom she finds inarguably inadequate. Honeyman deftly teases out the horrors of Eleanor’s past that keep the reader asking over and over, “what in the heck happened to her?”
I found both the amusing and sometimes dark journey as well as the door left wide-open resolution incredibly satisfying. This is a book driven by character and voice but it reels in the reader with an intriguing mystery that shows us how a person’s life can be unfolded layer by layer. It hooked firmly into the introvert and perfectionist in me and reflected back any self-doubt and insecurity I hold as an opportunity to change. If Eleanor can, I certainly can.
Funny, introspective, and immensely human, I could find myself rereading this book over and over as my soul required it. A powerful debut and, I think, lives up to the hype.
When people ask me what I do—taxi drivers, dental hygienists—I tell them I work in an office.
- My phone doesn’t ring often—it makes me jump when it does—and usually it’s people asking if I’ve been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance. I whisper I know where you live to them, and hang up the phone very, very gently.
- There are scars in my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out.
- Feeling the need to escape the noise and heat for a moment, I opened the back door and stepped out onto the patio. The garden was small and contained in the way botanical life, being mostly paved with concrete slabs or covered in slippery decking. Dusk was falling, but the sky felt small here, and I felt penned in, deeply , hoping for cool night air. Instead, my nasal passages were assaulted by tar, nicotine and other poisons.
- This was tricky. On the one hand, I could not deny that I was drawn to her. She had an undeniably rakish, alopecia-based charm and a devil-may-care attitude that would melt the hardest of hearts.